Review: Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
A steady flow of arcade titles are starting to grace the Xbox One’s relatively small catalogue of downloadable titles. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood from Press Play feels very much like the right sort of platformer to get the next-gen ball rolling.
The story starts with Max, our young protagonist, returning home to find his younger brother Felix messing around with his older brother’s things. Seemingly a frequent occurrence. At the end of his tether, Max googles “How to get rid our your annoying little brother?” and unknowingly reads a spell out loud from a webpage called Handy Sorcery. This sorcery is indeed handy and causes a portal to spring up in his bedroom, sucking Felix into another dimension.
Max follows and discovers that Felix has been taken by Mustacho, an evil OAP (with a mustache) who plans to steal Felix’s body to regain his youth. After discovering this, Max meets an old lady who grants him magical powers by imbuing the only item in his possession, a marker pen. What follows is an action packed adventure to rescue his brother through bleak deserts, dense jungles a host of other interesting environments.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood kicks off as quite a simple 2.5D, physics-based platformer. It doesn’t hold your hand or really tell you how to do anything, but rather relies on your common sense, combined with tricks that you’ve picked up from previous experience throughout your gaming career. This minimalism was appreciated in a world where it’s sometimes hard to pick your nose without an onscreen prompt popping up to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
Once you get to grips with the basics of jumping, climbing, crawling, pulling blocks etc the game introduces the magic marker. This interesting mechanic allows you to call up a giant marker pen on screen to draw various things that help you navigate the landscape. The first items you learn to conjure up are pillars made of earth and you can use these as stepping stones or protective barriers to separate you and your foes.You are more or less helpless against the many monsters that inhabit Anotherland. Your only real option is avoidance or tricking them into doing something foolish.
You learn other skills throughout the game such as vine ropes, fireballs and water spouts but the real challenge is figuring out the multitude of ways to combine these powers to get around. For example you can draw an earth pillar and tie a vine around it which can be used a bungie cord to descent to safety. It gets a whole lot more complicated than that but some of the challenges that this mechanic bring are a delight.
As well as getting to the end of the level there are also loads of great optional little detours to pick up collectibles. Some of these will really have you scratching your noggin, but they are well worth your time.
Though the game is challenging, and at times a little unpredictable due to the unpredictability of true physics, it never seemed that a particular challenge was impossible to overcome. It’s one of those games where you can say I’ll have a glass of wine and play 10 minutes and find yourself tapping buttons an hour later in a state of pure merriment.
My only real criticism would be that the controls for the pen proved a little fiddly at times, particularly in the situations where you have a huge monster bearing down on you and a very small window to draw the right thing in the right place. At points like that, you will die multiple times, but thankfully there is a good checkpoint system which ensures that your progress is never set back.
The first thing you’ll notice about Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is the lush visual in the opening cutscene. It’s beautiful, like a scene from Disney’s Up or ToyStory, and has you instantly engaged in the action on screen. This same style is mirrored throughout game with the 2.5D platform worlds a joy to look at. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the most attractive arcade games that I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
The Curse of Brotherhood also features a great musical score which fits nicely with the quirky and often humorous experience that’s been created here.
To sum up
Minor gripes aside, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has charmed me. It’s fun, fast-paced, frustrating at times and quite habbit forming. It plays like a loving cross between Abe’s Oddysee and Limbo so if you liked those games, the chances are you’ll be all over this. This is arcade platform gaming at its most colourful and a welcome addition to the Xbox One.
Version Reviewed: Xbox One
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is out now on Xbox 360, Xbox One.